Independence. As an only-child, it is what I’ve owned. I’ve fought for it, worked hard to prove it, and suffered in it.
And when standing on your own and providing for yourself is your battle cry, surrendering to love is no easy feat. To show up without safety pads and back-up plans, and to rip off the stubborn badge that boasts “I can do this alone” requires more than awareness. It takes deep work that pushes you to show up openly.
Because after all the Nicholas Spark novels and movies that ended in “Happily Ever After”; and after that wedding where the printed programs immortalized the love you were supposed to have forever; and after that heart-wrenching break-up that happened over Facetime because he moved across the world… You begin to re-examine your relationship with romantic love and the purpose it serves.
I’d always wanted epic love, craved for depth, sought for connection. While I’d kicked around my fair share of hearts (and had mine slayed a few times myself) and well-learned that love takes monumental effort, what I didn’t count on was that love hadn’t finished teaching me. And that sometimes, the lesson didn’t feel good.
Because when a soul mate enters your life, they dig. They root up things you thought you’d left behind. They call out the parts where you haven’t let go. They see the passions you let burn out and shine a flashlight on them.
I couldn’t see–
Scars that I was embarrassed of.
Stories I hid because of shame.
Pages of books I’d buried so I could move on.
Experiences that built walls keeping others out.
A reflection I had still not embraced as beautiful.
And then love shined a crystal-clear mirror. While confrontation can be excruciating, I could see me. By choosing to look, I could begin owning my past, acknowledging my fears, and releasing my pain.
I became honest about my headstrong independence which had become more of a shield I wore to protect me from potential pain and inevitable heartbreaks. This well-intentioned armor gave me a false sense of control. It boasted fictitious strength that others affirmed was admirable, so each day, I put it on again.
I feared relying on someone else, because what happens if they leave? Or when you’re alone? Or if something happens. That’s the funny thing about risk, we consider the “what if X happens?” We don’t always consider what happens if we DON’T do something.
What’s the risk of never letting your heart open enough? Or if you’re too proud to ask for another’s hand to hold?
I will tell you. You risk the pain of never knowing how love can hold you. You risk never experiencing the magic of another person being there with and for you, that you don’t have to slay your dragons alone. You risk never learning that vulnerability is not weakness but the highest form of courage and strength.
Yet, there are times you may want to throw your hands up. You have a bad day. You have a brutal fight. Something from your past rears its ugly head. You realize not everything is as “sexy” or “endearing” as it once was.
I didn’t say this was easy work. I’ve fought it and sometimes denied it.
But this time I can’t walk away when I’m angry. Or tune out because I’m distracted. Or ignore because I don’t want to confront.
This is where you discover and face those dark and ugly places so you can get past them and be set free. Sometimes it feels your partner IS that dragon you are slaying, but they are only revealing what you couldn’t previously see.
When you allow them in deep enough, they fight alongside of you, instead of against you.
Occasionally, tears must fall to wash away the residue of excess egos and past heartbreaks that cause poorly-delivered words and fuel misunderstandings. Sometimes raised voices must leak to excavate the buried pain and traumas that had become heavy weights.
While seemingly impossible, these difficult times allow you to break through layers to get closer to reciprocally understand the nuances of each others needs and desires, in order to more fully satisfy them.
Contrary to the message of the classic fairytale, love is not a prize to be won, nor a finish line of an obstacle course, not an ending to a movie.
Love is a rolling journey, a thousand moments:
Of being present when we want to run.
Of misunderstandings that challenge how we communicate with the world.
Of standing naked draped in imperfections, dimples, and scars; and being accepted.
Of misspoken words that should have never been uttered and make us mindful to become more tender with what we say.
Of eye-rolling annoyances that expand our patience.
Of leg-squeezes under the table to connect without words.
Of intimate declarations not for show on Facebook but exchanged while facing another.
Of vibrational surrender.
Of passionate love-making.
Profound love exists. Life changing, body shaking, soul overtaking love exists…if you choose it.
You choose to show up. To exist openly.
You choose for love to inspire you or to exhaust you.
You decide that partnership will grow you or lose you.
You choose for tears to destroy you or exalt you.
And thus I choose to say yes to:
giving more when I thought I had
trying even when I feel tired
opening my heart in the most vulnerable and expansive way
Because the reward that greets me first thing in the morning and at the end of a long work day, makes every victory a bit sweeter, every smile a bit wider, and each laugh a whole lot louder.
Sometimes walls are built to hold things out. I choose to break my walls so I can truly allow love to come in.